Monday, September 30, 2013

Windows 8: Stupid PC Tricks - Lock Screen Shortcut

Note: "Stupid PC Tricks" are a series of user tips that I think are interesting, but unfortunately they're not all that useful.
In any organization its important to lock your computer when you leave it, this will prevent someone from abusing your network security access.  By pressing the WinKey + L on the keyboard you can lock the computer screen.  With this tip you can create a shortcut icon that does the same thing by clicking on it.

  • Create a new shortcut (right-click the desktop, select New > Shortcut)
  • In the Type the location of the item field, type: rundll32.exe user32.dll LockWorkStation, and then press the Next button.
  • In the Type the name of the shortcut field, type: Windows Switcher, and then press the Finish button.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Microsoft Announces the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2

Today Microsoft announced the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, it's new Window 8.1.tablet.  The new Surface 2 is based on Windows 8 RT, and Surface Pro 2 based on Windows 8 Professional.

New features of the devices include:
  • A new fingerprint resistant magnesium-based case.
  • Faster processor:
    • Surface 2: 1.7 GHz quad-core Tegra 4 ARM chip. (w/ 2GB of RAM)
      • Internal storage: From 32GB or 64GB configurations.
    • Surface Pro 2:  1.6 GHz Intel Core i5 Haswell processor. (w/ 4-8GB of RAM)
      • Internal storage: From 64GB to 512GB configurations.
  • USB 3.0 port, and Bluetooth 4.
  • Surface 2 has a 3.5MP front-facing camera, and a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera.  While the Surface Pro 2 only has a 720P front-facing camera.
  • High resolution 1080P display (1920×1080)
  • Thinner and lighter case.
    • Surface 2: 0.35 inches thick, and weights under 1.5 pounds
    • Surface Pro 2: 0.53 inches thick, and weights under 2 pounds
  • Enhanced kickstand (2 positions, 20 and 40 degrees for better viewing)
Both Surface devices will be available for pre-order starting September 24, 2013, and will be available for purchase on October 22, 2013 (in select markets). Visit to learn more. 

New Accessories:
  • The Surface Remix Project, which is a new purpose-built music kit that attaches on to the Surface 2, Surface Pro, and Surface Pro 2 and works with a new music remix app. 
  • New keyboard covers (i.e. the Touch, Type and Power Cover 2) with back-lit keys and extended battery (extends usage up to 10 hours).  Features vary between the different products
  • New docking station.
  • New active pen.

More information: 

Windows 8: Map Folders To Drive Letters

If you regularly work with specific folders, and are tired of typing their path (e.g. C:\Windows\System32\Drivers or anything else) its possible to assign it a drive letter.  There's an old DOS command called SUBST (example: SUBST X: C:\{pathname}\foldername}) that can associate a drive letter with a specific folder path.

For example, to assign T: to C:\Windows\System32\Drivers, at the command prompt type SUBST T: C:\Windows\System32\Drivers and press the Enter key.  Now to access all the files in C:\Windows\System32\Drivers just type T:\.  This will work at the command prompt or in any application such as the File Explorer.

To delete the drive letter that was created by the substitution command, from the command prompt type SUBST T: /D.(just replace T: with the substitution drive letter that needs to be deleted).

Monday, September 16, 2013

Windows 8: Booting From a VHD

Since Windows 7, the OS has supported the ability boot the comptuer from a VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) or ISO file.   The VHD files were originally created for Microsoft's Virtual Machine (VM) technologies like Hyper-V.
  • Create or mount an existing VHD, and place it in an easy to find location such as C:\VHD.  For this example purposes the VHD file will be called C:\VHD\VHDTEST.VHD
  • Open up the administrator command prompt, from the Run... command type CMD.EXE and press Ctrl + Shift + Enter.
  • Run the following command: bcdedit /copy {current} /d "Windows Test VHD" (the name is quotes is arbitrary and is only for demo purposes, but it's what will show up in the Windows Boot Manager list at startup).  This command creates GUID that is associated with VHD that was just created and will be needed later in the successive steps.  
  • Run the following command: bcdedit /set device vhd=[C:]\VHD\VHDTEST.VHD (Note: the brackets around the drive letter are necessary)
  • Run the following command: bcdedit /set osdevice vhd=[C:]\VHD\VHDTEST.VHD. This command associates the GUID with the physical location of the VHD file.
  • Run the following command: bcdedit /set detecthal on (allows the VHD to access the physical computer resouces, such as the processor, virtualization technologies, USB drives, any other physical hard drives attached to the computer.)
  • Run the following command: bcdedit /v. Displays the all of the individual Boot Loaders that are available. 
To remove the VHD:
  • Open up the administrator command prompt, from the Run... command type CMD.EXE and press Ctrl + Shift + Enter.
  • Run the following command: bcdedit /v (find the GUID of the entry you want to delete)
  • Run the following command: bcdedit /delete {GUID} /cleanup
  • Now you should be able to delete the VHD if you no longer need it.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Windows 8: Built-in Command Line Network Utilities

Below is a list of command line network utilities that come with Windows that are used for troubleshooting network problems. The problem with these utilities is that they're not very intuitive until you learn to understand what you're looking at.

For example, the PING command is for checking if a remote computer or device is network accessible (note: this can be block by the device's firewall). The IPCONFIG command displays information about the  computer's TCP/IP configuration, such as its IP address.

To access these utilities utilizing the command prompt, from the Start screen, type CMD and press Enter. To exit the command prompt, close the window or type EXIT and press enter.  For more information and options on any of the commands below, use the "/?" switch at the end of them (e.g. PING /?).

PING [hostname]
Example : ping
Preforms a basic network test to check  communication with a remote device. 
TRACERT [hostname]
Example: traceroute
Shows the path and the number of routers (aka 'network hops') that the data passes through to arrive to the destination, if a connection is broken, this will show where it could be happening.
Example : ifconfig
Shows the basic TCP/IP network configuration for the computer, such as the IP address, subnet mask, and default gateway.
NSLOOKUP [hostname]
Example: nslookup
Displays the remote IP address assigned to a domain name based on the DNS information. This is a good test to make sure that the DNS connection is working properly.

Below is an example of the output:
Non-authoritative answer:
NETSTAT [options]
Example: netstat -nt
Displays the current TCP/IP based connections established on the computer. This is handy to see the remote TCP/IP connections the system is using. 
TELNET [hostname] [port]
Example: telnet 80
Provides a simple terminal session with another computer to perform different tasks, such as remote device administration or running text based applications. This utility can also be used for doing basic troubleshooting on HTTP, SMTP, and other text based  services.
ARP [options]
Example: arp -a
Shows and manages the local computer's address translation tables
NBTSTAT [options]
Example: nbtstat -n
Shows protocol statistics for NBT (NetBIOS over TCP/IP) connections.
NETSH [options]
Example: netsh interface show interface
Manages local or remote network configurations.
NET [options]
Example: net view
Displays or configures advanced network and system settings.
NLTEST [options]
Example: nltest /query
Tests the secure channels between a Windows computer in a domain and domain controllers.
PATHPING [hostname]
Example: pathping
Functions similarly to TRACERT command but also reports information about network latency and loss at each router.
GETMAC [options]
Example: getmac
Displays the MAC addresses for the NIC(s) attached to the computer.
Example: hostname
Shows the network name of the local computer.
ROUTE [options]
Example: route print
Displays and manages the local computers network routing tables.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Windows 8: Prevent Windows Update's Automatic Rebooting

It's annoying if the computer is left on at night with unsaved work on it, then come back to it in the morning and find that it was rebooted.

When new patches are downloaded and installed on the computer by Windows Update (if its enabled) this feature will automatically reboot the system. So if there's any unsaved work, it will be lost.

To prevent Windows Update from performing this action, follow the instructions below:

Note: This tip requires modifying the Windows Registry so proceed at your own risk.
  • Open the Windows Registry Editor, from the Search field under the Start screen, type "REGEDIT" and press the Enter key.
  • Navigate to the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU (note: manually create some of these keys.)
  • Right-click an empty space in the right pane and select New > DWORD value.
  • Name the new value NoAutoRebootWithLoggedOnUsers
  • Set the value in the field to 1, press the OK button.
  • Close the registry editor when done.